Cycling the Golden Gate Bridge

The humble bicycle has two wheels and no motor. Invented in the early 1800s and largely unchanged in two centuries, the bike is an excellent invention in transportation. And interestingly, unlike in other forms of transportation, development of the bicycle has resulted in an entirely new species of human, a species that would make Darwin go “huh? what the hell happened?”. For those unaware of this species, see pictured below the modern Homo bicycliens:


I am no Homo bicycliens; I am a regular Homo sapiens but I decided, while in San Francisco, to cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge. I had no preparation, no warm up, no idea what I was doing, and I hadn’t stepped pedal on a bike for several years.

I wandered into a bicycle rental store at Fisherman’s Wharf and was greeted with such enthusiasm and cheer that I instantly got a migraine. Was this the life of a Homo bicycliens? If so, existentially, my status as a sapiens was affirmed. Being assaulted with this much energy was exhausting.

After escaping mostly unscathed, and importantly, with a bike, a helmet, and a map, it was time to hit the road…except it wasn’t a road. The route from Fisherman’s Wharf to the bridge and over the bridge is almost entirely covered by cycle path, which is great to avoid being killed by a car. However, cars on roads are almost entirely predictable. Traffic on cycle paths is not. There are other cyclists with fluctuating speeds from 0.5 mph to 20 mph, there are groups of people walking four-abreast, there are families with wide prams and no sense of space; in short, there are humans in all their lawless glory.


The route followed the bay up to the majesty of the bridge itself, and this part of the route I managed fine, albeit while struggling face-first into the wind. But after a while I remembered that bridges aren’t at ground level, so I would have to get up some hills. Well, guys, I tried, but I gave up after about 3 seconds and said screw this hill and screw this wind and I got off and walked up. In my defense, while pushing my bike up that hill, I overtook three other people. Take that, suckers.

The bike rental place had had the option of an electric bike, of course. But who would pick a relaxed afternoon scooting along the bay and over the bridge when you can battle the heat and the hills and the blazing sun and grind your legs forward into the relentless wind? Not this guy. Give me pain or give me death!

Once on the bridge, time passed quickly. The bridge is 1.7 miles long but while up there your mind focuses on two things: 1) how elegant this gigantic structure is and how stunning the views are, and 2) why is this path not wider?? I’m going to veer sideways and slam into someone and that someone is going to fall off the edge and oh man this was such a bad idea why couldn’t I have just looked at the bridge from down there!!! There isn’t much time for counting distance and pondering what’s at the other end of the bridge.


But if you did have time to ponder that, the answer is Sausalito, a cutesy town overrun with cyclists, unsurprisingly. I was planning to stop for a drink and a bite to eat but given everywhere looked packed and the “bike parking” cost $5 to have your bike shoved into a pile of other bikes, I checked my map and decided to continue on. I’d made it this far, why stop now?

So on I went to Tiburon, another 10 miles away. I was going to list out the route and say turn left eight clicks past the old shed and skirt the outer rim of the bay’s edge and such like and such was. But instead you should try and decipher the guide the bike rental company provided, which is sun-faded, missing key points, and with a map so illegible even Ferdinand Magellan would’ve decided exploring wasn’t for him. Or, you know, you could just google an actual guide.

At Tiburon, legs jelly, hands swollen, and butt sore, I sank onto a luxurious patch of thin grass and waited for the ferry. Job done. Journey over. The End.


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